Continuing on with Part Two of our family Moroccan adventure!
If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up by reading Part One here! You can also see more on my saved IG Highlights capturing our Morocco trip from beginning to end (see below:)
WHAT I PACKED
As I’ve mentioned in Part One, Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country with strong ties to its religious culture. Therefore, dressing conservatively is recommended. Lucky for us, visiting Morocco during the winter made dressing in appropriate layers much more feasible than it would be if we were there in the spring/early summer. The average temperature hit between 50-55°F each day for most of our destinations, with the exception of Essouira & Marrakech which felt closer to 60°+F. All I can say is that if you’re from the Northeast, the Mountains, or the Northwest and understand the potential of winter weather, then you’ll find winter in Morocco to be absolutely delightful! The ONLY time we felt “cold” was in the Desert (naturally) which was about 40°F & below in the morning and evening.
Below are some of the things I packed for my trip – all of which that arrived with Amazon Prime One-Day delivery!
Bohemian Midi Dress (wearing medium) | High-Waisted Cargo Pants (runs small, sized up to large) | Crew Neck Bodysuit (wearing medium) | Pleated Midi Skirt (TTS, wearing small) | Maxi Pocket Dress (TTS, wearing small)
First Aid + OTC Medications
One of the things I’ve learned throughout my International travels is that you can never be over-prepared when it comes to packing medication, especially when outside the major cities. The chances of finding a pharmacy alone in a remote destination is slim, so you can imagine the stress of not having something you need in a pinch when unfortunate events strike (i.e. food poisoning for starters.) General rule of thumb: bring whatever you can fit with you when it comes to OTC medications. Some of the things I ALWAYS pack with me (International trip or not) are the following: Aspirin or Ibuprofen, Imodium, Tums, Dramamine, a general Antibiotic from your doctor + a travel-size first aid kit filled with extra Bandaids & Neosporin.
BTW – My sister made this amazing packing list that made preparing for our Morocco trip much easier, including some of the things most of us wouldn’t think to remember bringing off the top of my head. Although this list is curated specifically for our Morocco ‘January’ trip, I personally think this list would be a helpful reference for any International trip you’re packing for. Click here to download!
Days 4 – 6
WHERE WE STAYED
After our evening in The Sahara Desert, we ventured to the secluded oasis known as Dar Ahlam to kick off part two of our Moroccan adventure. You would never know such a place existed down a narrow, winding road within a small, local village. Dar Ahlam prides itself on privacy, hidden from street sight by palm groves & almond trees and requires crossing a dried-up river to get to from the main road. We spent two luxurious days & nights here, which were nothing short of unbelievable.
Only 14 rooms make up Dar Ahlam, but its intimacy isn’t the only thing to be recognized. Every day spent takes shape around completely personalized adventures with your dedicated guide. Each meal we had was held in a different room and prepared based on our desired palates, which was a true treat! For the first time on our trip, we had the ability to spend our time relaxing and catching up on sleep, spending our two days solely on the grounds of Dar Ahlam. I enjoyed having access to its modern amenities, such as the lounge, to catch up on some admin work & took advantage of the gorgeous scenery making up the property to take some photos.
Dar Ahlam Address
Douar Oulad Cheik Ali, Koucheït 00000, Morocco | +212 (0)5 24 85 22 39
THINGS TO DO
As mentioned above, one of the things Dar Ahlam does differently (& beautifully) is its focus on making your stay a personalized adventure. One of the ways we experienced such is through a destination lunch in the Dadès River Valley, tucked away within a rock desert 20 minutes from the resort by car! We hiked a quick 5 minutes over a ridge to find a open-sided tent, nestled in the sand by the river’s shore, with a table set for 5 underneath. We enjoyed an assortment of veggie dishes and chicken kabobs made right on site over a small flame grill. We were completely secluded and had the beautiful pleasure of enjoying 1.5 hours on such an intimate level. Definitely a lunch I will never forget!
Another memorable activity we experienced at Dar Ahlam is participating in a cooking class with the Head Chef. Our first evening presented us with a fish dish unlike anything my taste buds have experienced before; so we were thrilled to learn that we could see how its all done behind the scenes in the kitchen itself! Dar Ahlam
The Head Chef led us through the preparation steps of couscous and a tajine dish, which could be made of chicken, fish, or vegetables based on preference. Additionally, we learned about the proper cooking times for each, what will ensure a quality fresh taste to the dish, along with understanding the variety of spices to accompany it. What truly made it special was witnessing the passion the Head Chef has for his guests when preparing their food. He prides himself on having an organic, farm-to-table approach to sourcing each ingredient, which was clearly indicated with each bite of every meal we sat down to enjoy.
I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing spa treatments before, but never outside the comfort of wearing a robe (for the most part.) But I figured the only way to get the most out of my Hammamm experience was by the authentic way – aka butt-naked. Yes, I stripped down to my birthday suit and allowed a Moroccan woman to scrub and polish my skin, head-to-toe, in a steamy sauna & shower setting followed by an hour massage.
At first, I felt very hesitant to do anything of the sort but then I reminded myself of the best advice I’ve always given when uncomfortable moments arise, “You will never see this person/these people again.” From that moment, I didn’t care I was completely naked in front of a stranger at all and honestly, my entire Hammamm experience was instantly elevated by this mind switch. My body has never felt so relaxed, so exfoliated, and so good, which would have never been accomplished to such a fulfilling extent should I had decided to keep my bathing suit on. So glad I didn’t!
WHAT WE DID ON THE WAY ( TO & FROM DAR AHLAM)
Rose Oil Distillery
Also on our way to Dar Ahlam, we stopped at a rose oil distillery called Coopérative Rosamgoun to learn about the production of this infamous ingredient to skincare. In fact, MANY beauty brands ,known well in the US market, sources its rose oil from this very place in Morocco! Which was crazy to think about considering how remote and small this distillery appears from the outside.
Why Rose Oil? Not only does it contain a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but it also has incredible, soothing properties for moisturizing dry skin (something I’m very grateful for) as well as anti-inflammatory properties that help treat redness and inflammation. Needless to say, rose oil works wonders on my constant dehydrated skin, especially when dealing with eczema flare ups that are more common than ever before.
Coopérative Rosamgoun Address
Douar Ibrahne, Route Vers Kelaat M’gouna, Tinghir 45800, Morocco | +212 (0)6 61 87 40 75
Atlas Film Studios
Once we left Dar Ahlam, we stopped by Atlas Film Studios in Ouarzazate for a tour of the world’s largest & Morocco’s best-known production studio. You can credit this place for films such as Gladiator, The Mummy, & Aladdin (2019) along with the location of several episodes for Game of Thrones, Vikings, & Prison Break to name a few.
W2RM+76 – N10, Ouarzazate 45000, Morocco | +212 (0)5 24 88 22 23
Days 6 – 7
WHERE WE STAYED
Villa de l’Ô
Side note: we were originally planning to stay our one night in Essaouira at a different hotel, but the King of Morocco made last minute (to us) arrangements to visit this coastal city and book the hotel in its entirety for his accompanying staff. Yes, the King of Morocco has the power to do such a thing & yes, we were temporarily stressed out wondering where we could stay after learning several hotels were on full reserve by the King.
Luckily, we found the adorable boutique hotel Villa de l’Ô to stay the night instead and enjoyed its proximity to the beach & market we enjoyed the following morning/early afternoon. Our rooms overlooked the water and the smell of salty air along with the chirps of seagulls made us feel right at home. The only gripe we had during our stay was the lack of abundant hot water, which made for a shocking surprise when stepping into a very cold shower first thing in the morning. Probably not as big of an issue during the spring/summer seasons but not ideal for the winter months, if you catch my drift..
3 Rue Mohamed Ben Messaoud, Essaouira 44000, Morocco | +212 (0)5 24 47 63 75
WHERE WE ATE
Le Chalet De La Plage
Nothing reminded me more of home than this outstanding seafood spot only steps from our hotel. Located right on the edge of the beach overlooking the ocean, Le Chalet De La Plage is one of the oldest restaurants in Essaouira offering an array of crustaceans, sea urchins, prawns, squid, lobsters and whole fish plates. We opted to try the local oysters and I still can’t stop thinking about how delish they were!
Avenue Mohamed V, Essaouira 44000, Morocco | +212 (0)5 24 47 59 72
WHAT WE DID
Essaouira Fish Market
The following morning after arriving to Essaouira, we visited the local fish market to witness the trade of seafood arriving on hundreds of fishing boats within a tiny marina. Fun fact: one of the most popular and plentiful catch of the day (every day) were anchovies/sardines! A lot of the fish arriving to the market are boxed up on the spot & loaded into delivery trucks traveling to nearby cities for its various customers, mostly restaurants. Although many “stalls” are set up to coax tourists to purchase raw fish on the spot, I don’t suggest you do so unless your guide (if traveling with one) gives the all clear on a reputable seller. A lot of the fish isn’t properly kept if on display for purchase & exposed to the elements for extended periods of time.
See it on the map here!
Centre Artisanal – Wood Workshop
Essaouira is known as the main centre of wood carvers in Morocco, which made visiting Centre Artisanal D’ Essaouira all the more special. One side operates as a workshop handcrafting household items out of Thuya Wood, sourced from a Thuya Tree that is indigenous to the Essaouira region. On the other side of the workshop is an enormous store that holds all the beautiful items made in-house that are available for sale. I picked up two wood shallow bowls that serve as coffee table dish displays in our apartment. My biggest regret was not getting a couple wooden spoons for cooking as well.
Avenue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, Essaouira 44000, Morocco | +212 (0)5 24 47 40 82
Val D’Argan Winery
On our way out of Essaouira, we stopped at the Val D’Argan Winery for a local taste & tour of this extraordinary Moroccan vineyard. I honestly didn’t know what to expect with the Moroccan variety of grapes and I was so delightfully pleased with how delicious each one was (including the Rose, which I’m not the biggest fan of in general.
GFP4+R5 Ounagha 44133, Morocco | +212 (0)5 24 78 34 67
Days 7 – 10
WHERE WE STAYED
Okkk if I had to pick the most incredible place I’ve ever stayed in, it would have to be the Royal Mansour. My parents truly surprised us with this palace of a hotel for our final 3 days in Morocco. I’m honestly still blown away by our experience staying here.
The Royal Mansour Marrakech is the only hotel establishment in the world to offer its unique design concept of incorporating the elements of an authentic medina, where guests can stroll around and discover sensual delights. The rooms and suites have been replaced by luxurious riads (aka 3-story homes consisting of 1-4 bedroom layouts) surrounded by lush greenery and all the amenities you’d expect to enjoy during your stay, from a state-of-the-art gym to a gorgeous spa along with multiple dining locations on the property. Not only is there a large welcoming pool on the 5-acre grounds, but each of the 53 riads also has a private pool on the roof for guests to enjoy to themselves.
WHERE WE ATE
La Grande Table Marocaine
One of the two restaurants we dined for dinner located on the Royal Mansour grounds was La Grande Table Marocaine. This fine dining establishment offers a new interpretation of Moroccan cuisine based on the deep secrets of tradition, surrounding its guests with an equally matched setting of simple royalty. High ceilings, original artworks, designer linens, cutlery, glassware and peaceful melodies from luth and oud musicians: the omnipresent elegance is there to give rise to the greatest pleasure.
The second restaurant on the hotel grounds we dined at for lunch was Le Jardin, located in the shade of the palm and olive trees that border the idyllic swimming pool on the grounds of the Royal Mansour. This glorious, outdoor restaurant setting offers Asian and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine based on sharing, creativity and surprise. From spring onwards, it is also open for dinner, revealing the marvelously sweet nature of Marrakesh nights.
Our second dinner location was off the hotel grounds but made for an authentic Moroccan experience nonetheless! Comptoir Darna is a chic, 2-story place uniting two cultures of East and West with its fusion of Moroccan & global cuisine. A notable institution for Marrakech nights since 1999, this is the place of the red city where night gives way for partying… At 9pm, watch the lights go dim and the fun begin as you discover a show with choreographed belly dancers, musicians and DJ’s in a beautiful setting.
Bô & Zin
Our final evening in Morocco was spent dining at Bô & Zin, an asian restaurant surrounding its guests with a beautifully elegant atmosphere, complete with a lively beat & excellent quality dishes to share & enjoy. Bô & Zin embodies Marrakech nightlife by offering champagne and DJ-fueled nightlife as well as anyone, without the cheese factor you’ll find at other massive indoor-outdoor venues that have popped up outside the medina.
WHAT WE DID
On our first full day in Marrakech, we visited Bahia Palace – a peaceful, beautiful palace structure built in the 19th Century. Intended to be the greatest palace of its time, the name Bahia means “brilliance” and as in other buildings of the period in other countries, its design layout embodies the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style. Within the palace is a 2-acre garden with rooms opening onto courtyards with the most gorgeous mosaic tiling I’ve ever seen. Absolutely a must-see!
Argan Oil + Moroccan Spice Shop
Contrary to popular belief, buying Argan Oil in Morocco is not as easy as you’d think. There are very few regulations that allow one in knowing if they’re purchasing “certified bio” classified argan oil. It’s one of the most sought-after beauty products on the market and despite the abundance of purchasing options you’ll come across during your time in Morocco, the quality and price matters if you’re serious about it – ultimately, you want organic. Below are some things to consider when purchasing argan oil in Morocco:
Do not buy anything that’s being sold in a plastic bottle; that should signal a red flag that the argan oil isn’t organically sourced. It’s best to buy it in a glass bottle to avoid contamination from plastics.
True argan oil should be slightly murky – mostly clear and dull yellow in color. Anything too golden may indicate that the argan oil has been mixed with other oil varieties to keep costs low.
If you’re looking for the highest quality of argan oil, along with Moroccan spices, then I’d look no further than visiting a Women’s Argan Oil Coopérative for the most organic varieties. We stopped by a place called Coopérative Win Win, which specializes in argan oil cosmetic & culinary products made in-house by Berber Women, along with Moroccan spices & naturally-made cosmetic products + perfumes. We picked up an assortment of beauty products, including Prickly Pear Cactus Seed Oil which has been my skin’s Saving Grace from reducing the appearance of fine lines & helping in the prevention of premature wrinkle formation. I’ve been using it with my Rose Oil Facial Serum and my skin’s definitely showing a boost in youthful radiance from the two.
The below is based off of the business card we received from the Coopérative Win Win, which I could not locate on the map. I’ve included the available email address should you wish to reach out for a visit & receive the exact address details.
Toualat Bellarj – N112, Marrakech, Morocco | +212 (0)6 62 43 53 61 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Medina De Marrakech
We spent the majority of our second day exploring the souks (shops) within the main Medina of Marrakech’s city center. Although we left with some incredible treasures and purchases, I wouldn’t consider the shopping experience here to be the most pleasant. For starters, it’s a very busy & crowded place considering how large of a tourist shopping attraction it is – so if you’re claustrophobic, beware. Second, narrow passageways make up the entire medina that wind around like a maze; there’s not one main pathway to follow – something to keep in mind if traveling with a larger group. Third, vendors are somewhat aggressive with their tactics to get your attention as you shop; should you simply be browsing and look at something a bit too long, they will (politely) hassle/shout at you hoping you will make them an offer. However, I did find that if you politely say, “No thank you, just looking,” that they will then leave you alone. Of course, this is solely my personal opinion based on my experience here. Where places like this makes me nervous, some others won’t find an issue with the hustle & noise of it at all.
SHOPS WE LOVED
Al Matjar – carpet wholesale & concept store. I got my throw blanket, pillow cases and fabric poufs here!
Maison du Caftan – traditional hand-made kaftan house. Gorgeous jackets & clothing available here.
Galerie Le Pacha – not within the medina, but a shop worth visiting for beautiful modern & antique Moroccan artifacts.
Of course, the Medina is definitely a place worth visiting if you’d like to take advantage of getting your Moroccan merchandise at a negotiated price! Bargaining is expected when shopping & over the course of our 10-day trip, we learned the art of negotiating very well & found it as something we enjoyed (to my complete surprise haha.) I think it’s because it was always done in a friendly manner as a process of getting to know each other, not as a means of ripping one another off like you can occasionally see in other countries. In Morocco, it’s completely customary to negotiate the total price of your purchases, especially at the souks within the city Medinas.
BARGAINING IN MOROCCO
Whatever price the vendor gives you, divide it by 2. From there, you will find a new price that meets in the middle of the original offer and your divided price. A handshake verifies agreement of the negotiated price.
Jardin Majorelle + Berber & YSL Museums
The plant enthusiast in me couldn’t get enough of Jardin Majorelle – an exotic botanical garden designed by artist Jacques Majorelle in 1922. In 1980, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé purchased the Jardin Majorelle to save it from destruction at the hands of hotel developers. The two new owners decided to live in Jacques Majorelle’s villa, which they renamed the Villa Oasis. The Villa is located within the Jardin & can occasionally be visited from the outside only (to my knowledge.)
The Berber Museum is also within the walls of the Jardin Majorelle; built in 2011 & housed in the former painting studio. It presents a panorama of the extraordinary creativity of the Berbers, the most ancient people of North Africa. More than 600 objects, collected from the Rif Mountains to the Sahara by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, attest to the richness and diversity of this vibrant culture, which is still very much alive today.
A quick, 4 minute walk down the street from the Jardin Majorelle walls is the YSL Museum. Inside, you will find the permanent exhibition devoted to the work of Yves Saint Laurent – including a mannequin hall of YSL’s most infamous clothing designs. The museum also includes a hall for temporary exhibitions, a research library with over 5,000 volumes, a 140-seat auditorium showing the filmed timeline of YSL’s work & its fruition on a loop, as well as a bookshop and terrace café.
Highly suggest buying a ticket in advance to all three: Jardin Majorelle, The Berber Museum, & The YSL Museum – and going first thing in the morning to avoid the chaos of crowds. The Jardin gets very packed quickly so go right as it opens if you want to take advantage of getting the photos you want without photo bombers in the background. You can visit the Berber Museum while inside Jardin Majorelle & just down the street is the YSL Museum, which is larger and accommodates more people. So best to go in this order: 1) Jardin Majorelle, 2) Berber Museum, & 3) YSL Museum.
Our last activity in Marrakech & Morocco in general was going on an ATV tour. This was definitely one of the cooler things we did as a group, venturing out into the open rock fields surrounding the city walls. Although we didn’t get the exact name of our ATV Tour company, there are plenty of places offering the same 1-hour tours along with camel rides! Also, I recommend wearing a neck/face scarf as it gets very dusty out there riding.
Check out the complete list of Best Marrakech 4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours here.